If we think that the ending of the Day of Atonement seems different, the Mishnah records that something even more strange happened in connection with the day itself. When the collection of wood for the sanctuary was completed, tradition says that the maidens of Jerusalem went in white garments into the vineyards close to the city. There they sang and danced. The garments had been specially lent to them just for that purpose. They all wore the same outfits so that they would be on an equal basis. That way nobody would know who was rich and who was poor.
The following fragment of one of their songs has been preserved:
‘Around in circle gay, the Hebrew maidens see;
From them our happy youths their partners choose.
Remember! Beauty soon its charm must lose —
And seek to win a maid of fair degree.
When fading grace and beauty low are laid,
Then praise shall her who fears the Lord await;
God does bless her handiwork — and, in the gate,
“Her works do follow her,” it shall be said.’
The Day of Atonement in the Modern Synagogue
The Mishnah gives instructions for how the day was to be kept, and what should be expected from its right observance. Rigorous rest and rigorous fasting was done from sundown of one day to the appearance of the first stars on the next day.
The people could taste neither food nor drink of any kind, and could not even wash or anoint themselves. They also couldn’t put sandals on. The only exceptions to this were for the sick and for children.
In return for all the ‘affliction’ that they endured, they expected that what happened on the Day of Atonement would blot out their sins for another year. When Israel was first announced a nation, this was their very highest hope for expiation.
They did not have anything else, because Jesus had yet to be born and die once and for all so that every man could have the chance of being pardoned from the insurmountable load of sin that he bore.
The law was made for only a temporary thing until the time was right for Jesus to come and take away the sins of the world. Jesus once and for all ‘put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Hebrews 9:11,12,26).